How to Invest in Government Bonds – Part 1

The Electronic Municipal Market Access system or “EMMA” is a repository for information about municipal bonds and the muni-bond market. EMMA provides free access to official municipal securities disclosures, trade data, and municipal / government credit ratings.

Public disclosure about bond issuing agencies yields transparency which produces confidence when considering whether to invest in government issued bonds. EMMA seeks to inform and educate retail, non-professional bond investors, that is, those who are not experts.

EMMA’s educational materials, which include videos, cover municipal securities, official statements, advance refunding documents and transaction prices.

EMMA stores municipal disclosure documents, including bond offering documents or “official statements” for most new offerings of municipal bonds, notes, 529 college savings plans and other municipal securities.

EMMA also provides access to advance bond refunding documents. These documents set forth arrangements made to establish escrows to pay-off existing bonds when new bonds are issued. The objective of such arrangements is to enable a public entity or governemt body to refinance debt at a lower cost or interest rate. There are also “continuing disclosure” documents that provide “material information” during the life of a bond. Additional voluntary disclosures may be provided by certain bond issuers.

EMMA also provides real-time municipal bond prices and yields – that is the price and interest rate at which government bonds or notes are bought and sold. This includes data for auction rate securities and variable rate demand obligations.

According to the EMMA website:

“EMMA is a service of the MSRB, the self-regulatory organization that protects investors, issuers of municipal securities and entities whose credit stands behind municipal securities, and public pension plans by promoting a fair and efficient municipal market. The MSRB fulfills this mission by regulating securities firms, banks and municipal advisors that engage in municipal securities and advisory activities. The MSRB has operated under Congressional mandate with oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission since 1975.”